Readers Roundtable: When Do You Head for the ‘Mill?

Teenage Ginger headed for the mill to take arty photographs.
Teenage Ginger headed for the mill to take arty photographs.

I always have to chuckle when Runners World posts something about treadmills on social media and within moments someone, usually a guy, posts a photo with icicles dripping off his face and comments that treadmills are for wusses who are afraid of a little cold weather. It’s usually not bad weather that sends me to the treadmill. Case in point, yesterday.

Despite unseasonably warm weather, a busy weekend left me contemplating doing my longย run on my basement treadmill while my kids played. With a million errands to run and both of our to-do lists miles long, it felt like getting in my run early with the kids in the basement would free up my husband to get some of his stuff done. (Leaving him on kid duty every Sunday morning for 2-3 hours so I can do a long run isn’t exactly fair.) I can’t say it was my first choice, however, given the choice between no run or a treadmill run, the ‘mill wins every time and I am very lucky that I have a nice one at home!

Some people think the dreadmill is for wusses. Others run exclusively in the safe confines of their gyms for fear of the big wide world. Still others believe running on the hamster wheel isn’t real running. Some think treadmills are easier to run on than the road, while others are mystified by the increased effort required to go way slower on a treadmill than a pace that is a piece of cake outside. There certainly is no consensus, so we wanted to get your take!

Is the treadmill awesome, awful, or a necessary evil? Do you prefer the treadmill for a particular weather condition, life circumstance, or workout? When do you head for the ‘mill?

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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30 comments

  1. I use my treadmill every day to warm up before hitting the streets and to cool down after. Helps me ensure a good warm-up with the pace so easily controlled from walk to jog to trot to run AND it makes the “actual” run feel so much better because those first 20 minutes (you know what I mean) are already out of the way.

    I also love it for certain workouts such as sustained uphill hikes & runs and sustained downhill running (to build quad immunity).

    The treadmill makes it easier to run doubles without the hassle of suiting up and timing the run just right to avoid traffic or weather. And, it’s great to have it available for a little recovery jog or walk in the evening after a race or tough training run.

    1. That’s interesting that you use it to warm-up. I used to run on mine on cold dark mornings in the winter and then go to the hill next to my house to do hill sprints in my bra and shorts in 20 degrees and it felt so good! But probably wouldn’t feel good for much longer than that!

  2. I don’t mind the tm, especially when the weather is bad. I’ve come to find that running super slow on bad surface (i.e. snow and ice) is too risky. I love doing tempo workouts on the treadmill. It’s a mental test to stay in one place, and be able to see the pace and distance. All of my race PRs up I still prefer the marathon were done with tempo treadmill workouts. I love putting in a movie or catching up on shows. I prefer outside, but if I have to get the run done, and the tm is the only option, then I go with the tm.

  3. Ugh, I try so hard to have a good attitude about the treadmill, but if I’m doing anything more than an easy/recovery run on one, I feel like it chews me up and spits me out every time. Last week I struggled through a moderate workout that I had flown through the week before outside at 30 seconds faster per mile. It was crazy how much harder it was on the treadmill, and I think a lot of it was that there was nothing to distract me from the monotony. TV just doesn’t compare to the scenery outside (especially here in DC, where pretty much every run goes past cool landmarks). And I won’t even discuss the two “speed” workouts I’ve attempted on the treadmill this training cycle, one of which ended when I literally threw up a little in my mouth. . . .

  4. I vastly prefer running outside, but sometimes use the soft surface of the gym treadmill, especially a Woodway, to give my body a break from pounding pavement when trails are not an option. I also like treadmills for short speedwork intervals when conditions won’t work to do them outside.

  5. Sometimes it’s simply what you have to do! I’ve been known to use it in the winter a lot…especially for speed workouts. It takes me forever to warm up. Trying to run fast when it’s frigid outside freaks me out a bit.

    I did one long run on the mill (14 miles) and it was absolutely horrible. It wasn’t the treadmills fault, though. It was the first trimester nausea/fatigue blues.

  6. bad weather, needing to run early before everyone wakes up, needing to shake it up once in a while… all good reasons to head for the mill!

  7. I’ve probably already run a couple hundred treadmill miles this year. I use the treadmill so I can run while the kid sleeps. I also choose the treadmill when the temps are below 15 or 20, especially if there is a windchill. I have had hypothermia before and fortunately it was at a race where help was available immediately. I am not risking hypothermia out on my own!

    I will also hit the treadmill if there’s ice, especially if it’s dark.

    Can’t wait for spring.

  8. Treadmill is not my favorite thing, but I am SO glad we have one in our basement. It comes in really handy for those days where the husband and I are trying to juggle all the parenting things. I feel guilty sometimes because marathon training can really get in the way of our flow. Having a treadmill at home gives me the option to squeeze in my run on the less than ideal days. During this time of the year, I save up current episodes of my TV shows and watch those on the treadmill, so it gives me something to look forward to. Sometimes I take a special trip to use the treadmill at the Y though to get out of the house, get away from distractions (aka my kids), and just for a change of scenery. The treadmills at the Y are higher quality than my home treadmill too.
    And sometimes I run on the ‘mill just for the sheer laziness of not wanting to find ALL the outdoor running gear. It takes 2 minutes to toss on a pair of shorts and a tank top and grab my water bottle before hopping on my home treadmill. It seems to take a good 10-15 to get layered up for an outdoor run in the winter.

  9. Bonus point for the treadmill โ€“ itโ€™s inspired my girls to want to run. My 12 year old did a 30 minute/3 mile run/walk session the other day (and yes, she tweeted about it!). My 7 year old asks when she can graduate from the occasional treadmill walking to running (note: many more years and pounds!). Best purchase ever. . .

  10. I don’t have a treadmill at home. So I have a membership to a 24 hour place with multiple locations. I use it primarily when its too cold to run outside (below 0 Wind Chill or typically below 10 degrees is my cut offs), or if it’s too icy outside. Sometimes though I will be at the gym at 3am because I need to fit in a long run before a long day at work, and sometimes it’s just not the smartest idea to be out on the road running at 3am. I run mainly on country roads so if the wind or weather makes me question whether or not it’s safe to be out there, I head to the gym.

      1. Lol. Yes. I needed a 14 mile run and had to be at work by 7am. I wasn’t sure what time I would be out and there was supposed to be an incoming storm so I didn’t want to risk missing my run completely. The storm hit right as I got to the gym and I came out to a foot of snow on my car. The best part of that run was that I realized that mentally I could make it through a long run on the treadmill; previously I struggled to make it through just a couple miles.

  11. I spent years as a casual runner on the treadmill at the gym. I used to think it was easier to run faster on the treadmill because it kept pace, but that was only because I didnโ€™t run a lot outside. I find men who have variable or no child care responsibility are the ones that scoff at the treadmill. Itโ€™s us-women that juggle FT/serious jobs, small children, needy husbands, and other demands that learn to tolerate (and sometimes love) the TM. After my divorce, a new LifeFitness was one of my first purchases so that I could keep running while single parenting my young children.

    After I graduated from casual runner to marathoner, I find I run better (both faster/easier) outside on the road or at the track at almost all paces vs. the treadmill. But, I still use my treadmill for safety and variety. Living in Boston means that I rely on the treadmill during inclement weather or poor conditions more than Iโ€™d like. However, I also like it to just mix it up. I donโ€™t like to watch TV like some of the Salties. I do like to run hard intervals like Pimento. Itโ€™s almost easier on the treadmill than the track in this regard because 1) it enables me to maintain my target pace and 2) it forces me to keep consistent recovery periods. I think a treadmill has a place in my training but generally, Iโ€™d prefer to be outdoors if at all possible.

    1. YES! HA! Having a basement mill with young children means you can almost always get in a run. It might mean you spend the entire time saying “stop that!” or having to start and stop a million times to put shoes on ponies or find this or that, but you can get it done! And yes, if I didn’t have a million and 1 things I *should* be doing other than running then I’d take the time to dress in 36 layers and put screws in my shoes and that kind of thing, but when there’s a treadmill in my basement that will save me significant time and ensure I get it done, then I think I’m smart, not a wuss ;)

    2. Totally true that its the men that make those comments… My ‘mill broke this fall, I posted a woe-is-me on Facebook and promptly a guy (with a stay-at-home wife) basically called me a wimp for owning a treadmill in the Pacific Northwest because the weather never gets bad enough… It most definitely is not only the weather that makes me use my treadmill!

  12. I just started using a treadmill now that living in colder, snowy climate. It’s especially good for tempo and intervals when high school tracks are covered with snow or unavailable or trails are icy. I do like the slow easy runs outside but learning the value of treadmills inside. I do seem to find perceived effort is higher inside for same pace as outside–seems contrary to what I’ve read. Any thoughts?

  13. I don’t have a ‘mill at home, so I go to the Y to use one under certain circumstances: it’s cold, dark and/or icy, my usual country-road routes feel uninspiring or lonely, I want to get a full workout of cardio, strength and stretching. Treadmill running seems to take extra effort for me and I like that challenge, too. I would never call someone a wuss for running on a treadmill, but I do feel especially bad-ass when I’m out in adverse conditions.

  14. I’m definitely a treadmill lover and there are times when I probably use it when it would be better to be outside. Personally if it is a speed workout and there is any chance of ice or insane weather that could hinder the workout I’ll most likely stay in so I can control things better.Treadmill is a great training tool and can really help with different aspects of training and mental strength. But, I also try and get outside as much as I can, because on race day there isn’t a moving belt under you and you can’t control things with a button.

    1. It’s definitely a good option to zap pre-workout route anxiety. Do you get that for tempos? Like you see a hard tempo on the plan and then start freaking out about which route to do it on? Or am I just crazy ? :)

      1. I’m feeling like my ‘mill is a little bit of a crutch for tempo runs right now- I know there is no chance I’ll slow down if I’m on the treadmill; once I push “go” I am committed. Trying a sustained tempo outside tomorrow for that very reason. Time to put on my big-girl panties and commit to the pace without my ‘mill forcing me.

        1. I’ve definitely used it as a crutch before, more often in the winter but also with newer workouts. But, I think that using the treadmill that way can help build confidence and when you do get outside it’s great to see that you CAN pull it off and it just reaffirms the fact that you have been doing the work and it will pay off- regardless of where the work was done.

  15. I have to say, I don’t mind the treadmill. I use it either when the weather is crappy, or it will be safer to be inside. I typically train alone, so if I don’t get to be outside when it’s daylight, then I will happily head inside! Also, I live in a hilly area, so if my legs are feeling beat up, I know I can do a flat recovery run at a controlled pace whenever I need it. The treadmill is my ally, not my enemy! :)

    1. I loved having a gym one floor down from my office, especially in the winter. It seemed to save a lot of time not to have to bundle up and go all the way outside and “get lost” (hehe). It also gave me more flexibility to get in runs. I could go down at lunch or after work, bang out some miles and get back to my office quickly.